Bought chiefly in the late 1980s, the pictures formed part of the contents of a 16th century home in London. Heavily weighted towards Middle Eastern art and antiques, the group was dispersed in a single-owner sale held in the capital at Chiswick Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) on February 5.
Belgian artist Louis Haghe (1806- 85) topped the pictures with an 1850 work showing a corner of the Khan Al-Khalili bazaar in Cairo with the famous Al-Azhar Mosque beyond.
On its last auction outing in 1988 – then titled The Sebeel, or Holy well of Cairo – the signed 3ft 1in x 2ft 5in (93 x 74cm) watercolour had sold for £2000 at Christie’s in London.
Offered with an estimate of £800-1200 at Chiswick Auctions, it sold for £15,000. The winning bidder was a private buyer looking for furnishings to decorate their homes in London and the Middle East.
Typical Orientalist subject
Another typical Orientalist subject was At the Hamam by Birmingham-born painter William Breakspeare (1855-1914), whose many subjects carry an Orientalist dimension that was probably influenced by his stint in Paris in the late 1870s.
Female baths and harems were a favourite subject of French painters, who indulged in painting exotic fantasy scenes, even though male painters would never have been allowed to enter such places. The 2ft 5in x 5ft 6in (75cm x 1.67m) oil on canvas had fetched £7000 on its last auction outing, at Sotheby’s in 1988.
This time, it sold to a European private buyer for £11,000, comfortably above the top guide.